• Swine Flu: Another Reason to Telecommute? Some Relevant Legal Issues & Guidance
  • October 27, 2009 | Author: Brian M. Molinari
  • Law Firm: Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. - New York Office
  • I am also a contributing author to the New York Employment Law Letter. In its September 2009 issue I wrote about the resurgence of telecommuting for various reasons, including efforts to reduce company overhead while increasing productivity during the recession. See Telecommuting: What employers need to know about managing offsite workers.

    Now an official pandemic, the H1N1 Swine Flu is forecasted to have a resurgence this fall and winter which may be another reason to offer a telecommuting option to employees. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published useful guidance for businesses on managing the workplace in relation to this pandemic. Indeed, one of the CDC's recommendations includes: "Establish policies for flexible worksite (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), if needed." And yes, even the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has published helpful guidance in ensuring a safe workplace in the face of this global pandemic.

    While telecommuting is easily justified, there are myriad legal issues involved that warrant review of the resources cited here.

    Some of those include: (i) Telecommuting as a "Reasonable Accommodation" of a Disability; (ii) Discrimination/ Eligibility Issues; (iii) Wage and Hour Issues (travel, standby time, downtime); (iv) Workplace Safety (ergonomics, OSHA compliance, workers compensation, third party liability); (v) Commercial, General Liability, Homeowners Insurance; and (vi) Protection of Confidential and Proprietary Data; (vii) Telecommuting Policies and Agreements.